The 2020 election and its immediate aftermath have led to more notable departures from the comparatively few voices willing to take on Trump and tell the truth about the election results.
Leland Vittert, an anchor and reporter, had drawn Trump’s ire alongside Smith as of 2019. In mid-November 2020, he engaged in a heated on-air conversation with a Trump campaign spokeswoman over the campaign’s fraud claims. Shortly after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, in one of his final on-air appearances, Vittert described being confronted by pro-Trump supporters demanding loyalty. After he did not appear on air for months, Fox announced in April that the network had “mutually and amicably parted ways” with Vittert, who now works for NewsNation.
The situation was similar with another lower-profile Fox anchor who had criticized Trump, Jedediah Bila. Shortly after the election, she said of Trump: “To make a statement about an election being stolen or an election being rigged, that can be a dangerous statement. I haven’t seen any evidence.” She talked about how it was going to be “incumbent” upon Trump to concede the election in the then increasingly obvious absence of voter-fraud evidence. The next month, her temporary replacement on “Fox & Friends Weekend,” Rachel Campos-Duffy, responded approvingly to those who cheered her taking Bila’s role. Fox announced Bila’s departure in May, again saying that the two sides had “mutually and amicably parted ways.”
In January, the departures included two key figures on Fox’s “decision desk” who had angered viewers by declaring Joe Biden the winner in Arizona on election night: executive Bill Sammon and political editor Chris Stirewalt. Sammon described his exit as a planned retirement; Stirewalt, who was among nearly 20 staffers laid off, has since sharply criticized the network’s coverage of Trump.
Another example was White House correspondent Kristin Fisher. Fisher, like Vittert and Smith, drew Trump’s ire for her aggressive questioning of his coronavirus response. In mid-November, she debunked the voter-fraud claims made by Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani in a news conference at the Republican National Committee. In early December, she ran down the many rebuttals of Trump’s claims, including from Trump-appointed judges and Trump’s own officials, including former attorney general William P. Barr. Fisher left the network in May and now works for CNN.
To be clear, those who have left the network have generally not criticized it, with the exceptions of Stirewalt and now Goldberg and Hayes, who were Fox News contributors. Many of these departures have been described as amicable partings of ways or retirements, with some former employees, including Bila and Fisher, saying nice things about their time at Fox.
Whatever the circumstances behind their departures, though, the practical implication is that those who have cast doubt on the stolen-election claims or applied skepticism to Trump are now a smaller voice on the channel. As the New York Times reported in May, this has happened even as some of the most stridently pro-Trump voices have earned higher profiles on the network.
The network continues to feature the voices of those who have been critical of Trump and applied the requisite skepticism to his stolen-election claims, including such anchors as Chris Wallace and Neil Cavuto. But others are generally in lower-profile roles as pundits, many of whom come from left-leaning perspectives.
Those who have truly made splashes by scrutinizing Trump and his stolen-election claims in positions from which viewers might not expect it or desire it — as many of the above have — have often found themselves short-timers.